Magic Assistant Chad Forcier Helped Develop Kawhi Leonard Into Player He Is Today

By John Denton

Nov. 29, 2016

SAN ANTONIO – While it might seem like a nine-night, five-city odyssey throughout America’s heartland would be a glamourous endeavor, Aaron Gordon paints a different picture of what the Orlando Magic’s current road trip will feel like to him.

``It feels like we go from the plane, to the bus, to the hotel … from the plane, to the bus, to the hotel … from the plane, to the bus, to the hotel,’’ Gordon said, repeating himself to ram home the point. ``And some nights you don’t even know what city you are in. But the camaraderie of the team is good because you have a bunch of brothers all in the same hotel and down the hall. Any time you need to talk to somebody or need something, you’re pretty much surrounded by your best friends.’’

Magic coach Frank Vogel, who has spent nearly two decades enduring the arduous grind of the NBA schedule, said that there isn’t as much free time as one might imagine on lengthy road trips. When you constantly have basketball on the brain, Vogel stressed, there’s no time or motivation in seeing the sights in various cities.

``Two suitcases, not one, and there’s a lot of time (spent travelling). Well, you say there’s a lot of time, but you’re playing five games in eight days and there’s not really a lot of (free) time,’’ Vogel said. ``You’re travelling, you’re practicing and you’re going to shootaround. Probably three of the nights, you’ll get to a city at 6 or 7 o’clock and you’ll get a quick meal and get to bed because you’ve got shootaround the next day. It’s a business trip, and not really as much (free) time as you think.’’

FAN OF FORCIER: In San Antonio from 2007-16, Chad Forcier was in charge of player development and was credited with the incredible rise of Spurs’ forward Kawhi Leonard. But to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Forcier always represented someone much more impactful than just a coach who worked out players after practice or before games.

Vogel recognized that as well and aggressively sought and landed Forcier as his lead assistant when putting his coaching staff together for his first season in Orlando. The high praise of Popovich certainly helped Forcier’s case for landing a job as an assistant coach in Orlando.

``First of all he’s wonderful at his job and he understands the characteristics necessary to be successful on the court, and that can be Os and Xs or developing a player,’’ said Popovich, who hired Forcier following his first two stints in the NBA with the Pacers and Pistons. ``He was important in looking at what we did offensively. Defensively, he made suggestions while doing the development job for us. He’d always make a little tweak here or there with some play that I’d have and talk about how this can be made better. So he’s creative in that sense.

``As far as knowing what a player needs, you can look at someone like Tony Parker or Kawhi Leonard and see the effect that he’s had on those guys,’’ Popovich continued. ``So he’s kind of got the whole package. And when you see the enthusiasm and the love of the game that he shows consistently day after day – win or lose – he’s a pretty special guy.’’

Added Vogel: ``He’s a great assistant coach and he does a lot of the little things to create a positive culture. He makes sure that even the little things are done the right way, things like organizing team dinners on the road, making sure we’re getting in our pre-practice shooting and film sessions. And he does a great job of helping me manage the staff.’’

SCHEDULE GROWTHS TEETH: With three games at the Amway Center last week, the Magic were excited about being home for the Thanksgiving holiday and hopeful about racking up a string of victories before going out on the road.

But when Orlando dropped games against Phoenix, Washington and Milwaukee – all teams with losing records – it meant the team would head into one of its most grueling stretches of the season with a bitter taste in its mouth.

Now, the Magic schedule amps up with a distinct ferocity. The current five-game trip features difficult road stops in San Antonio, Memphis (Thursday), Philadelphia (Friday), Detroit (Sunday) and Washington (Jan. 6). The Magic are trying to combat some of the rigors of the travel and ensure that the team gets plenty of rest by staying overnight after games in San Antonio and Philadelphia.

Things don’t let up as the roadtrip ends. Once back in Orlando in the early-morning hours of Dec. 7, Orlando hosts Boston later that night at the Amway Center. The team won’t be home long, departing for Charlotte the next day so it can face the Hornets on Dec. 9. And on Saturday, Dec. 10, the Magic wrap up their only four-games-in-five-nights stretch of the season with a home game against the Denver Nuggets.

Vogel said the looming road schedule makes the recent run of bad luck at home even more frustrating.

``That’s why we’re all kind of kicking ourselves for not taking advantage of our opportunities at home,’’ he said. ``That’s a challenging thing, a hurtful thing, but that’s where we’re at. All we can do is focus on the moment.’’

POINT GUARD BY NAME ONLY: D.J. Augustin made his second start of the season at point guard for the Magic on Tuesday night, but during stretches of games he figures to be a point guard in name only.
Because Augustin is one of Orlando’s best perimeter shooters, Vogel wanted to get Augustin into the starting five to get him more shots. And the coach wants Augustin to be able to spot up from the 3-point line a la a shooting guard when Evan Fournier has the ball in his hands and attracts the attention of defenses.

``I just try to do whatever I can when I’m out there and whatever it takes for us to win, spotting up or running the team, I’ll do it,’’ Augustin said. ``Whatever coach needs or whatever the team needs, I try to do it. I’m just blessed that I’m able to do both.’’

In his first start of the season on Sunday against Milwaukee, Augustin made five of seven shots and one of his three 3-point tries. For the season, he had a 19-point game against Utah and an 18-point performance versus Dallas. He’s shooting 41.1 percent overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range while averaging 9.5 points per game.

``It depends on the flow of the game. Sometimes you need to be more aggressive offensively and other times you have to control the team and run the team,’’ Augustin said. ``It’s just a matter of the flow of the game.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.


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